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No ports or nukes for Muslims

BY ERIC S. MARGOLIS (World View) / 12 March 2006

THIS is not a good time to be a Muslim. Today, in the Western world, openly expressed hatred and contempt for Islam and Arabs has become the only socially acceptable prejudice.

The collapse of the Dubai ports deal is the latest striking example. The highly professional port operator, DP World, was forced to give up a deal to manage East Coast US harbours after an enormous political uproar in America. At the heart of the uproar was the fact that DP World was owned by the Arabs. 

The cry went up from the US Congress and media: ‘Keep Arabs out of our ports!’  No one seemed to notice, or care, that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states have invested $121 billion in US companies and property. 

A bi-partisan coalition of Islam-hating conservatives, evangelical Christians, publicity-seeking Democrats and the mighty Israeli lobby, forced President George Bush to back down on the port plan. UAE, a staunch US friend and ally, was slapped in the face. But it had the good sense and good taste to withdraw from the no-win battle. 

This ugly business came right after Bush’s trip to India where he completed the enshrinement of America’s double-standard nuclear policy. After preaching for years about stopping nuclear proliferation, Bush agreed to give India nuclear fuel and key US nuclear technology, while turning a blind eye to India’s ongoing production of nuclear weapons and denying old ally, Pakistan, any such aid.

Nuclear arms for largely Hindu India are good; nuclear arms for Muslim Pakistan and Iran are unacceptable.  India, which is working on intercontinental and sea-launched nuclear missiles, is being fawned over by the US, while Pakistan stays in the dog house and even faces threats of US attacks on its nuclear infrastructure. 

This week, US Vice-President Dick Cheney, addressed the Israeli lobby in the US and came close to threatening war against Iran over its alleged covert nuclear arms programme — which may not even exist, while India is estimated to have stockpiled around 100 deliverable nuclear warheads, and Israel reportedly has 200. North Korea, that nuclear-armed member of the axis of evil,’ seems to have been forgotten in Washington’s rush to chastise the ‘disobedient’ Muslim world.  Of course, going after supposedly nuclear states that don’t have any such weapons, i.e. Iraq and Iran, is a lot safer than attacking a state that actually does have them.

No sooner was Bush back from India when he unblushingly again proclaimed the need for nuclear non-proliferation.  A few days later, the BBC broke a fascinating story, revealing that in the 1960’s, Britain had secretly sold Israel nuclear components used to make its first atomic, then hydrogen warheads. Interestingly, some of this British technology, notably the use of the rare element tritium to boost the explosive power of nuclear weapons, was later sold by Israel to India.

Speaking of proliferation, I was always amused when I hear Britain’s sanctimonious prime minister, Tony Blair, sermonise about the evils of Iraq’s so-called weapons of mass destruction.  His moralising reminds me of the media joke which made the rounds during the time of the US invasion of Iraq: ‘Of course we know Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.  We have the receipts to prove it!’

In late 1990, on the eve of the first US attack on Iraq, I was covering the looming war from Baghdad. There, I discovered four British technicians who told me a remarkable story which they backed up with documents. The four technicians had been secretly sent to Iraq through a joint operation of the British Ministry of Defence and MI6 Secret Intelligence Service.  Their job was to develop germ warfare weapons for Iraq, using anthrax, Q-fever, tularemia, and botulism.  The germ raw materials were supplied to Iraq, with full US government approval, by an American laboratory in Maryland.

The British scientists worked at a top-secret laboratory at Salman Park, near Baghdad.  They never progressed very far in turning the lethal germs into stable, deliverable battlefield weapons, but the technicians all insisted the germ weapons were intended solely for us against Iran, with which Iraq had been locked in a bloody, eight-year war. So the only potential arms of mass destruction in Iraq were actually those supplied by Great Britain, which today is warning about the dangers from Iran.  Such hypocrisy is truly breathtaking. You need a fine Saville Row suit and the very best Queen’s English to pull it off. The moral of this story: if you want to run seaports or obtain nuclear weapons for self-defence, you had better change your name to O’Reilly, Schwartz or Patel and stop turning to Makkah in your prayers.

 Eric S Margolis is an eminent journalist and columnist based in Toronto, Canada. He can be reached at margolis@ foreigncorrespondent.com
 
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